Your Guide to Bel Canto Singing Technique
Updated: Jun 6
In the Julian Morris Voice Studio, you will learn how to sing classical, pop, jazz, or other styles of music with healthy technique. Much of this technique is rooted in a school of singing dating back to the 1700s: the “bel canto” technique.
Bel canto singing simply describes an emphasis on speech level singing , good breathing technique, and beautiful vocal production that improves your tone, range, and health.
We’ll discuss bel canto singing below, and if you would like more information about singing lessons in NYC, please get in touch.
Differences Between Operatic Bel Canto and Bel Canto Singing Technique
What is Bel Canto Singing Technique?
Bel Canto, at its core, is an approach to singing that encourages healthy and natural vocal production. First, those learning the bel canto method of singing will work with a teacher on producing clear, simple vowels, to help ensure they are consistently in tune. Second, students will practice breathing techniques to help engage the body. Third, bel canto methods of singing place significant emphasis on diction (how consonants and vowels are pronounced in English and other languages).
We will dig into this singing technique in greater detail below.
What is the Bel Canto Opera Style?
Many people think of Italian Opera when they think of the words “bel canto.” This is understandable, as we often refer to the work of Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini as “bel canto” operas. Lucia di Lammermoor, first performed in 1835, is a perfect example of the style.
When you attend a Bel Canto opera, you will notice lengthy, florid arias, melismatic passages and other effortless vocal flourishes, and subdued orchestral accompaniment. This is in stark contrast with bombastic, dramatic operas of composers like Puccini and Wagner. In a nutshell, Bel Canto operas are all about the singers and their voices.
How Does One Sing With Bel Canto Technique?
Voice professors and teachers who emphasize bel canto singing will always spend as much time as needed to teach ideal breath support.
First, good breathing requires thinking all the way down to your diaphragm – your entire midsection should expand as you breathe, and very little movement above the sternum will occur. Diaphragmatic breathing is taught by singers, brass players, and even therapists who lead patients in breathing relaxation techniques. When the diaphragm contracts and descends, more air is pulled into your lungs.
Muscle Relaxation is Key to Bel Canto Singing
Tension in the wrong place can kill your breathing technique and tone. The first aspect of muscle relaxation hearkens back to our discussion of breathing. If your shoulders are tense, you will probably not achieve the level of freedom necessary to take a deep, full breath. The same applies to back tension. But something many singers don’t think about is this: if your throat muscles are tense, you will be forcing air (both in and out) through a contracted space. This doesn’t allow you to fill your lungs as deeply, and it will lead to a thin tone.
While you perform your vocal exercises or sing repertoire, strive to keep your legs, torso, back, shoulders, neck, and jaw free. Your tone will be more beautiful, you’ll be able to breathe deeper into your lungs, and you will avoid unnecessary strain on your voice.
Bel Canto Singers Do Not Force Volume or Range
You can always tell when a singer is “trying too hard” to increase volume. They may be engaging from the neck rather than the core, they may get red in the face, and the sound will come across as pushed or forced. This can lead to vocal nodules and other serious vocal issues, and the sound won’t even project far without a mic.
Someone who has mastered bel canto singing will be able to sing at remarkable volumes, but that projection will come from breath engagement and vowel clarity, and not from unnecessary tension or pushing. It may be loud, but it is also efficient. The same applies to high notes – someone practicing bel canto singing technique will sing their high notes with the same technique.
Bel Canto Singing Emphasizes Proper Diction
Much of the traditional bel canto vocal literature is heavy on text. And, even if you are applying bel canto technique to modern genres, you will need to learn how to clearly communicate the lyrics! A bel canto teacher will help you learn how to effortlessly pronounce consonants without disrupting the vowel stream or flow of air, and you will also learn how to produce consistently clear vowel sounds that allow you to project and maintain a beautiful sound.
Start Taking Holistic, Expert Voice Lessons
Whether you want to show off at karaoke, join a civic choir, or audition for a music degree, get in touch for voice lessons on the Upper West Side at your earliest convenience. Lessons are held in a professional studio near the Lincoln Center, and enrollment is open year round.